Season 5, Episode 2: “Redux II”
“Redux II” is just about as perfect an episode of television as it’s possible to be. Whenever I hear complaints about The X-Files, worried rumors about the upcoming revival, whenever I ruminate on mistakes made in later seasons and mourn the loss of scenes and ideas that could have been, I turn on this episode and my doubts vanish. Or, perhaps better put, I am able to feel good about the future of my show because I know that somewhere, the thoughts and ideas that produced this masterpiece are still swirling around in Chris Carter’s head.
Remember from my “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” review when I said that if someone tied me to a burning stake and threatened to kill everyone I loved if I didn’t name a favorite episode, I’d probably say “Clyde Bruckman”? “Redux II” is an example of an episode that makes that a probably. The flames might reach my ankles before I’d be able to choose.
But enough gushing. Let’s get down to business.
If “Gethsemane” was setting up this spiritual crisis for Mulder and “Redux” was explaining the nitty-gritty plot details behind this crisis, “Redux II” is the episode everything hits home. Mulder’s crisis of belief and doubt isn’t resolved, but he realizes there’s something far more important to him, something he’s about to lose.
As we’ve already seen in the past, Mulder is willing to trade almost anything if it means saving Scully. You might remember similar behavior in “One Breath,” during which Mulder worked tirelessly to save a dying Scully but was forced to face his own feelings regarding the matter.
“Redux II” is similar, but it’s different in several ways. First of all, Mulder’s very clear on his feelings regarding Scully, and he says so in the opening scene.
SKINNER: You’re looking pretty good for a dead man.
MULDER: I’m only half dead.
Mulder’s been down this road before. When Scully dies, half of himself goes too. Simple as that.
Secondly, where “One Breath” was about Scully but still very much Mulder’s story, in “Redux II” Scully faces her own spiritual crisis as well. Literally. There is apparently more controversy than I thought surrounding Scully’s religious background among fans, something I was surprised and rather disappointed to see. I suppose that’s a problem in our society as well – it’s hard to imagine how someone so scientific could also be religious. Scully, too, seems to have a difficult time reconciling the two. While we never really see any specifics concerning Scully’s religious beliefs like we do her scientific ones, we do see her driven to a point where logical, scientific thought can’t be her “guiding light” anymore, as she monologued in “Redux.”
It’s not clear in what way Scully relies on her Catholic faith beyond prayer, but I don’t think the episode is trying to relay some grand Christian message. Rather, Scully’s journey here is all about finding another source of strength that may not follow your natural instincts. Even more so, it’s about reevaluating the entire concept of “faith.” Scully has faith; she just expresses it through science, not in spite of it.
SCULLY: I’m so sorry… I fight and I fight and I fight… But I’m so stupid.
MRS SCULLY: What? What is it?
SCULLY: I’ve come so far in my life on simple faith, and now when I need it the most I just push it away. I mean, why … why do I wear this? (Scully holds up the cross necklace) Why do I wear this, Mom? I put something that I don’t even know or understand under the skin of my neck. I will subject myself to these crazy treatments, and I keep telling myself that I’m doing everything I can, but it’s a lie!
MRS SCULLY: You have not lost your faith, Dana.
I personally love this exchange. Scully recognizes that she’s “come so far on simple faith,” and I choose to interpret this as not merely meaning her religious convictions but also her faith in Mulder and her willingness to join him on his relentless search for the truth. This faith in him has brought her far in life.
Not everyone feels the same way, however. Enter Bill Scully, Scully’s older brother, who is famous for appearing in 4-5ish episodes and yet somehow leaving a scar on the collective mind of the fandom. Seriously – does anybody like this guy?
Sigh. Call me an outsider, but I just don’t get the hatred launched at Bill Scully. True, he’s mean to Mulder, but that’s more of an excuse to hate him, not a reason. Truthfully, I think Bill’s anger with Mulder is very warranted. He doesn’t understand everything the two of them have been through, he doesn’t realize how deep their relationship goes, and from his perspective he’s already lost a sister to Mulder’s quest and now he’s about to lose another one. Wouldn’t you be a little pissed off?
I think Bill is there as a foil to Mulder because while both of them obviously love Scully very much, one has given up on her and one hasn’t. Bill seems to think that Scully is doomed, while Mulder, despite feeling depressed and down on himself, can’t give up on Scully. It almost seems like that’s a literal, physical impossibility for him.
Poor Mulder’s having a rotten day. His belief system has been shaken, Scully is dying, the FBI is on his tail, and CSM once again comes out of the shadows to dangle Samantha in front of Mulder like a ball on a string. And this time, CSM wants to make a deal with Mulder: join me, and I’ll save Scully.
(Side note: That sounds a lot like Star Wars, doesn’t it?)
I think we can safely say it isn’t CSM who saves Scully. I’m not really even sure it’s Mulder who saves Scully. What saves Scully is a miracle. Chris Carter is a big fan of miracles, sometimes for better or for worse, but I like their application here, especially because it’s not necessarily religiously charged. It may be for Scully, but it’s very clear it’s a miracle for Mulder, too, and we all know Mulder’s no altar boy.
The interactions between Mulder and Scully in this episode are both wonderful and heartbreaking. Wonderful because they show a display of intimacy that will warm the cockles of even the most stoic Shipper’s heart, and heartbreaking because Scully’s literally on her deathbed, just like in “One Breath.” Except this time, she can talk.
The dying Scully is only concerned for Mulder and his upcoming hearing. She’s worried that they’ll prosecute him because of the dead man in his apartment, and even as she’s lying there dying, even as she is going through both physical and spiritual torment, she tells him this:
The world doesn’t deserve Dana Scully.
Mulder, of course, can’t let her do this. But he actually doesn’t tell her this right away. He has to come to a realization of his own first – about his own life, his belief, and his agency. And about how far he’s willing to go for both of them.
MULDER: Scully, I can’t let you take the blame. Because of your brother, because of your mother, and because I couldn’t live with it. To live the lie, you have to believe it. Like these men who deceive us, who gave you this disease. We all have our faith, and mine is in the truth.
SCULLY: Then why’d you come here if you’d already made up your mind?
MULDER: Because I knew you’d talk me out of it if I was making a mistake.
Or, better put, he came there because he knows they’re in this together. Because he’s doing this for himself and for her. Because they are each other’s capital T Truth.
Final score for “Redux II” is 10/10. I think this is the point in the show where the viewer starts to realize that you’re not really watching a show about aliens, you’re watching a love story. It’s not even a romantic one yet, but it is about love. “Redux II” captures everything that gives this show its heart. It’s not the aliens, it’s not the conspiracies. It’s Mulder and Scully and the love they have for one another.
Oh, there are too many.
- The hearing scene at the end is one of my favorite moments in the entire show. It’s perfectly paced, perfectly acted, and I just love how the music builds and builds, heightening the suspense. And when Mulder drops Blevins’s name, I always jump up from wherever I’m sitting and give an emphatic fist pump (usually accompanied by an aggressive “HELL YEAH!”).
- “Tobasco sauce. Cures anything.” This, my friends, is not true.
- I used to not like the Samantha scene, but now I actually think it serves the story well. Samantha is increasingly becoming a distraction rather than a goal for Mulder and it’s nice to see Scully remain his main focus.
- That last scene where Mulder breaks down crying is very touching and well performed.
- Gillian Anderson is a goddess sent down from above to kill us with her facial expressions.
- And at long last, we are FREE of the cancer arc. Break out the champagne.